you further examine the middle and right cubes you will see that
they have been drawn in a paradoxical fashion. The lines that delineate
the forward protrusion either to the left or the right have been
altered. They are configured in a way that would be impossible for
a real cube to exist, and yet they are real as they are drawn. It's
similar to studying an M.C. Escher drawing.
these cubes next time you are confronted with a puzzle that seems
impossible to solve. Remember that the clues you have been given
may be deceptive, and that the solution lies outside of the perceptually
you can train yourself to be alert to seeming paradoxes in solving
life's continual challenges, you will remember to open your mind
and not accept things by their appearance alone.
Paradox is all around
us and permeates our daily experience more than most people are
aware. Yet, we all have a general tendency to shy away from paradox,
assuming at first glance that there are irreconcilable opposites
involved, and the twain shall never meet. The Paradox Process
by Derm Barrett is a thorough study of the concept of paradoxical
thinking. It is informative and entertaining reading and should
be read by anyone who needs to utilize creative thought (which includes
everyone) in their daily work environment, or who just enjoys thinking
beyond the obvious. There are many self-training techniques that
will facilitate your ability to think in paradoxical terms.
The heart of his theory
is that there are three major types of paradoxical thought, Contrary
thinking, Janusian thinking and Hegelian thought.
According to Barrett,
Contrarian thinking is when "1. You conceive of doing something
opposite; 2. You think of replacing something by its opposite, whether
that thing is a belief, a value, an idea or an object; 3 you entertain
the thought that your opponent is right and you are wrong, or just
assume that an opposite point of view might be worth looking at."
Janusian Thinking is
"bringing two opposites together in your mind, holding them
there together at the same time, considering their relationships,
similarities, pros and cons, and interplay, then creating something
new and useful."
Hegelian Thinking is
"when you visualize how to fuse, combine, mingle, integrate
or synthesize two opposites to produce a third entity." An
example being newspaper photographs consisting of black and white
dots that through their interplay produce a cohesive picture.
Barrett has taken
his central inspiration from Western philosophers and scientists
in adopting Contrarian, Janusian and Hegelian thought processes.
Most have assumed that paradoxical thinking comes essentially
Eastern thought and the resolution of opposites. Though he delves
into this realm, as mentioned below, he has blended the Western
approach to express how valid it is in learning his techniques.
As Lao-tzu, the wise Oriental sage pointed out
centuries ago, opposites are everywhere. The one observation that
also indicated his genius was that he also considered the space
between opposites where "nothing" exists as being essential
to understanding. Rather than being perplexed by opposites and
them contradictory, one might adopt the attitude that there could
be no material existence without opposites. Any reasonable photographer
knows that light alone is incomplete. Without the absence of light,
or shadow and darkness, light would have no differentiation, there
could be no image. Every image that we see is a blending of these
two opposing elements, and to the degree that they express is the
nature of the image. This is the idea of the Yin and Yang of Eastern
The Paradox Process is also filled with
many thoughtful exercises that will stimulate your ability to not
only reconcile paradox, but to employ it for creative purposes.
One of these that I was most attracted to and that is covered a
lot on this web site he calls Paralogical thought. This is the kind
of thinking that leaps out beyond the boundaries of logical, linear
thinking and begins to imagine the bizarre and otherwise unthinkable
solutions to a problem. The advantage of entertaining this kind
of thought is that otherwise overlooked possibilities are at least
considered, no matter how absurd they appear on the surface, and
no stone is unturned in the consideration of resolution. This is
more important than most can imagine, and should be taught more
in our public school systems. Children naturally allow themselves
to venture into the truly imaginative realms of problem solving,
but are slowly bent to the "logical" and "linear"
point of view. Truly creative thought is often educated out of them.
The book also has many visual examples of paradox,
some are really quite clever, as the picture above indicating the
words true and false in the same rendering. Though I've seen quite
a bit of paradoxical images, Barrett has many in the book that are
new to me.
I was particularly pleased at the end to see a
list of exercises that went beyond the usual academic concepts of
paradoxical thinking. One that I heartily agree with is the
use of humor. Humor is such a potent tool in not only grasping and
holding onto the absurd, but in relaxing the body and mind so that
real solutions can present themselves without prejudice. Barrett
also promotes the concepts of Alpha and Theta Reveries, or just
plain purposeful daydreaming. Something, again, we all employed
as children, but have unlearned in the "maturation" process.
And, last but not the least most potent tool, one that I have been
using for most of my life is that of Deliberate Dreaming. We all
have the ability to tell ourselves just before falling asleep what
we want to dream about. In this way we are giving our subconscious
mind a conscious directive to work on a problem we haven't solved
yet while in the dream state. We may get what would appear to be
bizarre and unrecognizable image or image-states. Yet, when examined
closely these images can be seen as the perfect resolution to paradoxical
conflict, such that our waking mind would never consider.
This is an excellent book for those of high school
age and beyond to read, contemplate, play with the exercises and
use as a tool to learn to think in paradoxical terms. Once you can
embrace this new approach to thinking your world will become easier
to maneuver in and your ability express more creatively will become